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The Day the World Discovered the Sun: An Extraordinary Story of Scientific Adventure and the Race to Track the Transit of Venus First Edition Edition

22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0306820380
ISBN-10: 0306820382
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Editorial Reviews


Publishers Weekly, 3/19/12
“In this exciting tale—part detective story, part history of science—Anderson (“Shakespeare” by Another Name) vividly recreates the torturous explorations and enthralling discovery of three peripatetic and insatiably curious explorers.”

Kirkus Reviews, 4/15/12
“A scientific adventure tale in which astronomers risk their lives, traveling the high seas in winter, trekking over ice-bound Siberia and facing deadly diseases…A lively, fitting tribute to ‘mankind’s first international ‘big science’ project.’”
Northampton Valley Advocate, 3/29/12
“Anderson's prose [is] gleaming with a stout and convincing imagining of the past…An adventure tale that brings to life knowledge that is a touch esoteric, yet was at the center of vital, practical pursuits of the 18th century.”
Roanoke Times, 4/8
“An armchair travel adventure.”, 4/20/12
“I can think of no finer reading companion to warm you up for [the transit of Venus] than this week’s review, The Day the World Discovered the Sun…This book reads like a fine historical adventure novel…The book doesn’t back away from the ‘good stuff’ that astronomical history buffs yearn for…A table is included for the mathematically curious, and tales of astronomical intrigue abound.”
Booklist, 5/15/12
“A fine combination of popular science and real-life adventure that will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers.”
Discover, June 2012
“[An] intense account of efforts to measure the rare celestial event.”
New Scientist, May 2012
“Truly excellent…Anderson writes as if the reader is on the very shoulders of the adventurers as they sledge across the icy wastes of Siberia or sail across uncharted oceans…communicat[ing] the verve and energy—not to mention the perilous nature—of the expeditions.”
Daily Hampshire Gazette, 5/11/12
“A rollicking tale of 18th-century scientific exploration and adventure.”

Nature, 5/17/12
“[An] excellent account…Arresting…Anderson serves up a rich broth of details.”

AND Online Magazine, 5/26/12
“All three expeditions are compelling, with riveting accounts of the voyages to the far-flung points of observation, and a fast-paced narrative that has you on the edge of your seat, rooting for each of the teams of astronomers to be able to have the opportunity to actually see the transit of Venus on June 3, 1769 without the threat of clouds, broken equipment, dangerous weather, angry natives, or debilitating illness. Anderson weaves the three stories together seamlessly and The Day the World Discovered the Sun is a book about scientific advancement and adventure that is somehow able to avoid being bogged down with the complexities of science.”, 5/28/12
“It’s a heck of a yarn—a sort of real-life literal Star Trek from the era of tall ships, terra incognita, and scientific Enlightenment.”
Library Journal, 6/1/12
“Recommended for casual students of history and astronomy.”
Popular Science Online, 6/5/12
“From the beginning, you are alongside the famous explorers…Anderson draws on his background in physics as well as a career writing about Elizabethan England to tell the story.”
National Geographic Online, 6/5/12
“A clever and very entertaining book…an adventure tale, a story of human ‘drive and endurance’ with voyages to the poles and everywhere in between to unlock a scientific mystery.”
Desert News, 6/2/12
“Reads like a mystery. Anderson describes various astronomical puzzles that each explorer has to piece together in order to form the larger picture…A book that pays tribute to men who are not mentioned in textbooks. It is a book for all people, not just those who are interested in astronomy.”
Technology & Society Book Review, 6/4/12
“Both an adventure tale and a look back into the history of science.”
Winnipeg Free Press, 6/2/12
“A worthwhile read for anyone with compatible interests.”

Concord Monitor, 6/10/12
“Anderson explores the personalities and politics behind the transit observation expeditions, melding history and science in a fascinating story of the first large-scale international scientific effort…Anderson makes each expedition come alive; the challenges and detours, hopes and hubris… Whether you like science or political intrigue, space or human nature, or simply want to marvel at these men's accomplishments, Anderson delivers.” 

Internet Review of Books, 6/15/12
“A wonderful retelling of several intrepid expeditions to the corners of earth in search of a higher human aspiration—scientific truth.”

Midwest Book Review
, August 2012
“A fine guide for any interested in astronomy’s link to mankind’s development.”

Book Review, 6/14/12
“It is rare that a history book can be described as genuinely suspenseful. Anderson’s narrative is exciting; his description of three different expeditions reads like an adventure novel.”

Choice, November 2012
“Highly recommended.”, 1/17/13
“An entertaining read for anyone interested in astronomy or the history of science.”

About the Author

Mark Anderson is the author of “Shakespeare” By Another Name and has covered science, history, and technology for many media outlets, including Discover and National Public Radio. He holds a BA in physics, an MS in astrophysics, and lives in western Massachusetts.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Edition edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306820382
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306820380
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #532,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Aanel Victoria on May 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book on the hair-raising scientific expeditions of the 1760s is a rich and rewarding adventure from start to finish. It's exciting history that was galvanized by some of the most important scientific and political imperatives of the 18th and early 19th centuries: finding life-savingly accurate means of longitudinal maritime navigation; exploring the mysterious South Pacific and beyond; and determining the precise distance from the earth to the Sun, the most critical and fundamental astronomical unit of measure. All of these and more prompted the cause célèbre of the age: far-flung measurements of the extremely rare transit of Venus, which occurred in 1769.

This book doesn't feel like "science" though, although those factors are well explained. On the contrary, we have mad kings, exotic natives, scary epidemics, erudite Jesuits, stubborn viceroys, squabbling astronomers, wide-eyed naturalists, leonine monarchs, curious common-folk, dedicated scientists, international political intrigue, wild overland journeys, and the gamut of seagoing excitement, for starters.

The various locales journeyed to give us a breathtaking "you are there" window into 18th-century Vienna, St. Petersburg, Mexico, Baja California, Siberia, Paris, arctic-circle Norway, South Pacific islands, London, Barbados, Cape Town, Tierra del Fuego, Copenhagen, Jakarta, Cadiz, Rio de Janeiro, and places in between. The point of the Venus transit was to get readings from many locations, as mutually distant as possible, in order to triangulate a reliable distance to the Sun. And getting to these locations is half the adventure, but certainly not all of it. Greater challenges meet each adventurer upon arrival at their destination.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sauropod on May 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book, and I wrote a mini-review, which I'll repost below. Bottom line - it's a great read; you'll learn a lot and have fun doing it!

Who knew that the 18th century's race to observe the transit of Venus across the sun could be the stuff of a pageturner? In Mark Anderson's expert hands, the international adventure comes vividly alive as we follow the redoubtable Captain Cook, the philosophical astronomer Chappe d'Auteroche, the pioneering surveyors Mason and Dixon, the Jesuit priest Maximilian Hell, and other luminaries who brave the icy depths of Siberia and navigate uncharted tropical seas in search of the ideal observation post for this all-important astronomical event. THE DAY THE WORLD DISCOVERED THE SUN is a thrilling and poignant tribute to those who risked all--and in some cases gave all--to advance the cause of knowledge.

- Michael Prescott, fiction writer
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By ObsessiveReader_1279 on May 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book details the race to the ends of the earth to catch a glimpse of the Venus transit, which occurs only twice every 150 years. It was posited by Edmund Halley that by using this transit it would be possible to calculate the distance between the Earth and Sun to a 98% certainty AND HE WAS RIGHT!

Be sure to read this book if you love adventure, science and astronomy! THE DAY THE WORLD DISCOVERED THE SUN has it all in one amazing read!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By England on August 19, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not only was the subject matter interesting and adventurous, but Anderson's writing is appropriately humerous making the experience a lot of fun. My only complaint is that I would have preferred each expedtion's story to be told in full then the next story etc., rather than jumping from story to story to keep the stories in synch in terms of the time sequence. Maybe it wouldn't matter in the printed book b/c you can easily jump back to remind yourself of who was who, but in the kindle I found it hard to jump back and forth as needed to remember the details of that particular expedition. All in all I loved it though, and the epiloge is great too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By tormodg on October 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have read hundreds of popular science books, but few are as vivid and well told as this one. The author has a flair for dramatic exposure without resorting to cheap effects. The histories told in this book reveal how different science was 250 years ago, and to what lengths people would go for scientific insight. People literally traveled to the ends of the world to observe the sun - often for months and years - to see Venus pass in front of the Sun during a few hours. If it was cloudy that day - bad luck. Anderson also weaves in the political conflicts which raged Europe, like the war between France and England in the years leading up to the Venus passage, and also the extreme hardship Spanish rule inflicted on the people of "New Spain" (Mexico).

As a Norwegian, I particularly loved the story of the Hungarian priests and astronomers going to Vardø. Their trip was extremely rough and long. Today it would have taken two days, tops. How the world has changed. Not only was the journey hard, but they had to bring everything they needed, and build the infrastructure they depended on.

Kudos to Mark Anderson for a great accomplishment.

My only gripe with this book is that Anderson erroneously gives NASA credit for the Venus Express mission (which reached Venus orbit in 2006). Seriously, it is one of the flagship missions of European Space Agency, ESA.

But really, it's a wonderful book. If you're interested in science history, astronomy or space science, it is probably for you.
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